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Organs

Latvian churches are rich in old and excellent organs, the sounds of which lift the soul and fill the spirit. The organ has been a traditional sacral music instrument in Latvia since the 15th century.

There are about 300 the so-called historic organs, respectively, instruments which had been made by 1945, besides, made for a specific room, taking into account its acoustic possibilities. Thus, there are no two identical pipe organs, every instrument is unique. Therefore the fact should be considered that despite the long isolation Latvian churches have retained authentic pearls of organ building, which surprises the most acknowledged organ experts of Europe. The most outstanding are two: the Ugale Church organ with its original, more than 300 year-old pipes, or the instrument of the Liepaja St Trinity Church, which is now the only one in the world able to play the music on the original 7,000 pipes made by Heinrich Andreas Contius. With 131 registers, 4 manuals and many pipes it was the largest pipe organ in the world till 1912; today it is the largest historical mechanic instrument which has not been reconstructed, and the largest pipe organ in Latvia.

Works of excellent masters

During the centuries Latvian organs have been made by the most distinguished European masters as well as by most skilful local ones. The organ master of the Liepaja St Trinity Church - Heinrich Andreas Contius from Halle – was highly appreciated by the famous composer Johann Sebastian Bach.

Contius made the organ also for the St Jacob’s Church. The most famous is the organ of the Riga Dome, built by the company E.F.Walcker&Co in 1883/84; the highest achievement of the organ art during the late romance period has been acknowledged as one of the most valuable historical instruments in the world. The organ has 124 registers, 4 manuals and a pedal, 6,718 different-size and material pipes which are placed on 26 wind bins. The size of pipes differs – the biggest ones are 10 m, but the smallest ones only 13 mm long. The composition for consecrating of the Riga Dome organ „Nun danket alle Gott” was written by Ferenz List. At the moment the organ circular built in 1601 is being restored, wherewith scaffolding has been erected. The current condition of the organ as an instrument allows its careful and cautious use in concerts making it a unique musical and spiritual experience.

Oldest organ in Riga

Several first-class instruments have once sounded in the St Peter’s Church, but the oldest organ of Riga can be found in the Riga Reformed Church, unfortunately, it cannot be heard now. In their turn, instruments built by W. Sauer still sound in the Old St Gertrude Church and the St Jesus Church. „E.F.Walcker&Co” organs can be heard in the Tornakalns, St Paul’s and St Martin’s churches, giving an opportunity to play the so-called romantic organ music, favoured in Europe.

Organ music concerts

One of the greatest experiences is a concert of organ music, especially if it happens in the old Dome. It is the cathedral of the archbishop of the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran church and one of the most prominent concert halls in the world, in which the most outstanding organists and vocalists perform. Once in a year, in the beginning of July, listeners are gathered by the international festival of organ music „Riga Dom”. In its turn, the international Organ Music Festival in Liepaja traditionally takes place at the end of August. Organ music festivals and concert cycles are organized also by other Latvian churches, the instruments of which are ready for playing, for example, in Jurmala, Dubulti, it is possible to listen to the performances of the organ music festival "Vox angelica", too.